Macron, Modi sign military pact with an eye on China; top 10 developments

Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron before their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Saturday
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday night received his counterpart French President Emmanuel Macron with his trademark hug at Palam's Air Force Station in New Delhi. On Saturday, India and France inked 14 pacts and pledged to deepen economic, security and defence ties between the two countries. 

Macron, who is in India on a four-day visit, was accompanied by his wife Brigitte Marie-Claude Macron, besides senior ministers from his cabinet. Macron and his wife on Saturday also paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat. 

A joint statement issued after the meeting of Narendra Modi and Emmanuel Macron said India and France stressed on the importance of holding annual dialogue at the ministerial level to deepen cooperation in the economic and financial sectors. 

Deepening defence ties, India and France also signed a pact to facilitate the use of each other’s military facilities, including naval bases to warships. This comes amid China’s growing military expansion in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted that more than 1,000 French companies, with more than $7 billion investment, were present in India. Further, Kumar said that Prime Minister Modi and President Macron interacted with Indian and French CEOs to take the partnership forward at the CEO's Forum. 

Here are the top 10 developments of Emmanuel Macron’s visit to India:

1. India, France sign deals worth $16 billion: On the first day of President Macron's visit to India, French and Indian companies on Saturday signed contracts worth 13 billion euros ($16 billion).  

The deals include a contract for France's Safran to supply SpiceJet with engines, water system modernisation by Suez in the southern city of Davangere, and a contract between industrial gas company Air Liquide and Sterlite.

Macron's office did not provide a breakdown of the value or details of the business contracts. It said that some 200 million euros of investments would be made in India.

Both the countries encouraged small and medium-sized enterprises and mid-cap companies to play a growing role in the economic and commercial exchanges.

2. India, France sign 14 agreements: After extensive talks between Prime Minister Modi and French President Macron, India and France inked 14 key pacts in the strategic areas of security, nuclear energy, and the protection of classified information. Agreements in the field of education, environment, urban development, and railways were also signed in the presence of the two leaders.  

3. Macron meets Swaraj, Kovind: French President Macron on Saturday held talks with External Affairs Minister (EAM) Sushma Swaraj to discuss the further enhancement of ties between India and France in various sectors. At the Rashtrapati Bhawan, President Macron met with his counterpart, President Ram Nath Kovind, his wife Savita Kovind.

President Ram Nath Kovind shakes hands with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron during a call-on at Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi

4. India, France commit to boost bilateral trade: India and France today committed to increase bilateral trade to 15 billion euro by 2022 and "timely relaunching" of negotiations on the India-European Union free trade agreement.

Both the countries also stressed on the importance of "open and inclusive global trade" and vowed to work together with all members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for an "open and inclusive global trade".

India-France bilateral trade rose to $10.96 billion (8.91 billion euro) in 2016-17 from $8.3 billion (6.74 billion euro) in 2015-16.

Macron emphasised on maintain a balance of international trade to avoid any trade-wars. He said, "Trade war between the countries is impacting the economies of India and France".

5. India, France sign strategic pact on use of each other's military bases: Reflecting a growing depth in defence ties, India and France inked a strategic pact providing for the use of each other's military facilities, including opening naval bases to warships. Macron said the navies of the two nations will share intelligence and call their respective military bases for any requirement.

The French President said both the countries will have "unprecedented" level of cooperation to ensure peace and stability in the Indian Ocean and in Pacific. The two sides inked the pact amid China's growing assertiveness in the region.

6. India, France on maritime security sphere: Emmanuel Macron said space agencies of both countries will have joint monitoring mechanism for developments in the maritime sphere, while navies of the two nations will share intelligence and call their respective military bases for any requirement. He further inclined towards building submarines in India under the Make in India initiative.

Separately, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her French counterpart Florence Parly held talks during which detailed discussions on specific projects including on the Scorpene submarine programme for the Indian Navy was discussed.

The Indo-French agreement on reciprocal logistics support for armed forces came nearly two years after India signed a similar pact with the US on use of each other's land, air and naval bases.

Officials said the agreement will facilitate the reciprocal provision of logistic support, supplies and services between the armed forces of the two countries during authorised port visits, joint exercises and joint training among others.

7. Modi, Macron on India-EU ties: Modi and Macron also agreed that India and the EU should deepen their cooperation on multilateral and security issues, as well as on economic, trade and climate change issues, according to the joint statement said.

Launched in June 2007, negotiations for the proposed India-EU BTIA have witnessed many hurdles due to major differences on crucial issues like intellectual property rights and duty cut on automobile and spirit.

The pact is aimed at reducing or significantly eliminating tariffs on goods, facilitate trade in services and boost investments between the two sides.

8. France on Rafale fighter jet: Noting that defence cooperation between the two countries now has a "new significance”, Macron said: “India had made a sovereign decision in this respect (Rafale fighter jet) and we are monitoring the progress in the field. We very much want to continue the programme. It is a long-term contract which is mutually beneficial. I personally consider it as the heart of the strategic partnership.”

India had signed a government-to-government deal with France in 2016 to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of about Rs 580 billion (Rs 58,000 crore). The Congress has been demanding details of the deal, alleging that the deal negotiated under its rule was much cheaper then the contract signed by the Modi government.

ALSO READ: Rafale deal win-win but details can't be revealed, says France's Macron

"The leaders noted ongoing discussions between DRDO and SAFRAN on combat aircraft engine and encouraged necessary measures and forward-looking approaches to facilitate early conclusion," the joint statement said.

9. India, France agree to step up space tech co-operation: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Central National D'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) inked an agreement for an end-to-end solution for detection, identification and monitoring of vessels in the regions of interest.

India and France share a robust relationship in the area of space which is five-decades-old.

In the field of atomic energy, the two countries signed an agreement to expedite the work on Jaitapur nuclear power plant.

The "Industrial Way Forward Agreement" was signed between EDF, France, and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL). The EDF will be constructing six atomic reactors in Jaitapur with a capacity of 1,650 MW each. The plant which will come up in coastal Maharashtra will be the largest nuclear park in the country.

10. 'Study in India' initiative: India and France today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for mutual recognition of educational qualifications. Emmanuel Macron said he wants to double the exchange of students between India and France

While interacting with the students at Delhi's Bikaner House, the French President said, "I want to double the number of Indian students coming to France and also want to increase the number of French students going to India."

French President Emmanuel Macron interacts with students at Bikaner House in New Delhi on Saturday

Frederique Vidal, France's Minister of Higher Education and Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar signed the MoU at the 'Knowledge Summit' held coinciding with the first state visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to India.

"It is historic as for the first time; a government-to-government MoU has been signed to mutually recognise academic qualifications. It will help the student community. There used to be only bilateral arrangements between institutions to institutions, Javadekar said.  

Pointing out that more than 5,000 Indian students are studying in France and about 1,500 French students in India, the minister said the HRD Ministry would launch a 'Study in India' initiative to attract more and more students from other countries to India.
President Macron will also visit Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Modi, on March 12. He, along with Modi, will inaugurate a solar plant in Uttar Pradesh's Mirzapur. On March 11, President Macron will attend the International Solar Alliance (ISA) Summit, an initiative mooted by France and India.

The ISA Summit, expected to be attended by several heads of the states and governments, is likely to focus on concrete projects. On the same day, he will also visit Taj Mahal in Agra. 

The ISA is a unique effort that brings the world together to harness solar energy and create a cleaner as well as greener future, he tweeted. 

The International Solar Conference (ISA), an alliance of more than 121 countries, was initiated by Prime Minister Modi in January 2016. The primary objective of the alliance is to work for efficient exploitation of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.   

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